flying snow

There is sleet sliding down the living room window, wind blowing down the chimney, silence in the house. My thoughts are grim.

There is so much broken around me,broken in me.

Someone called to the house last week, a single parent . Watching him drive off with the kids I thought how black and heart-breaking to loose someone you love but have to carry on, carry on, carry on picking up the pieces carrying on for the kids.

Thinking about it some more there are many single parents in ‘our place’. Then there are those who are currently separated from children not through choice, but because of having to flee persecution in their native land.
Imagine not seeing your children for many years ? Then imagine not being able to afford bring them over when free?
Then you keep picking up other bits of sadness  from an infinite sea and adding them together. Imagine that happening? What if that happened?
Spotting some report about the threat of bird flu on the corner of a website or wondering how we will cope whenever death comes makes me feel ill. Basically it’s scary out there. Basically I wonder how we’ll cope.

I appreciated reading this  Wendell Berry poem the other night in bed and for moment thought about the seeds I plan to plant in the garden come spring.
I’m not sure why the sight of garlic appearing through the water logged soil or imagining the smell of broad beans  calms me a little, but it does.

February 2, 1968

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

Wendell Berry


Why Zidane headbutt Materazzi?


Why am I always tired?
Why am I so tired?
Why am I always hungry?
Why am I always cold?

Why buy new?
Why Boxing Day?
Why be happy when you could be normal?
Why bring a child into this world?

Why Christmas?
Why can’t I sleep?
Why can’t we be friends?
Why can’t I get pregnant?

Why do we yawn?
Why do we dream?
Why do cats purr?
Why do we have Christmas trees?

Why England slept?
Why energy is needed to melt ice?
Why evolution is true?
Why eat?

Why Facebook is bad?
Why fish on Friday?
Why finance?
Why for the glory of Satan of course!

Why go to university?
Why get married?
Why Georgia lyrics?
Why Goldman Sachs?

Why House of Fraser?
Why have you applied for this position?
Why have JLS split up?
Why has Holly changed in Hollyoaks?

Why is the sky blue?
Why is the sea salty?
Why is Santa red?
Why is my period late?

Why Jailbreak Apple TV?
Why Jailbreak iphone?
Why JLS split?
Why JP Morgan?

Why kill brian?
Why Kun Aguero?
Why Kill Brian in Family Guy?

Why love matters?
Why live?
Why law?
Why lyrics?

Why men cheat?
Why men fall in love?
Why my kid is crying?
Why men pull away?

Why not?
Why not Edinburgh?
Why nations fail?
Why not associates?

Why Obamacare is bad?
Why Oxford?
Why outsource?
Why Orwell matters?

Why PWC?
Why people smoke?
Why poverty?
Why people cheat?
Why quit?
Why questions?
Why quotes?
Why qualitative research?

Why should we hire you?
Why so serious?
Why study law?
Why should we recycle?

Why the whales came?
Why thank you?
Why teach?
Why this kolaveri

Why UBS?
Why use alliteration?
Why Linux?
Why use a lens hood?

Why Vicky left Geordie shore?
Why volunteer?
Why vote?
Why vegan?

Why was Nelson Mandela imprisoned?
Why won’t my iphone charge?
Why was the Berlin wall built?
Why was JFK killed?

Why xbox one is better?
Why xmas?
Why xbox one is better than PS4
Why xbox one sucks?

Why you want to work for River Island?
Why you want to work for us?
Why heff to be mad?
Why you no?

Why zebras don’t get ulcers?
Why zoos are good?
Why zoos should be banned?

Why Zidane headbutt Materazzi?

Anarchy and Christianity

I’ve been reading a little bit of Jacques Ellul this week.

I’m not sure I agree with everything he says in this book, but enjoyed being made to think about why I don’t agree with him.

(Actually, I’m maybe lying because I felt like I agreed with lots of the stuff he said in the book. But it seems that it’s  far from the Christianity I’m used to and there are no book recommendations from authors I might consider ‘sound’ on the back so I assume there must something to be wary off and that makes me want to cover my bases in case . It’s like I’ve still got a inner  ‘Dodgymeter’ that I forget about then if I pick up certain books it goes off. Rob Bell -ding-a-ling-a-ling! Beware, dodgy!! Ding Ding Ding!!)

I’ve always been told that Christians should be involved with politics (something which was very common in N Ireland) and trying to influence society so it’s interesting to hear a dissenting voice.

‘The political game can produce no important changes in our society and we must radically refuse to take part in it’

What Jacques!??Did I really just read that…what about salt and light and all that. What about Wilberforce?

He then goes on to look at anarchy in the bible (where he defines anarchy as the nonviolent repudiation of authority).
That is when things get interesting.
For instance when Jesus appears in front of the religious leaders and Pilate he doesn’t seem to be impressed by their authority.
Or the prophets who appear to speak out against the rulers of Israel in the OT.
Or the Israelites wanting a king and God not seeming particularly enthralled.
Or for someone who wrote that we should obey the authorities and be good citizens in Romans Paul seemed to be in trouble a lot with them.

Ellul also talks a little about the passage in Matthew where Jesus says.

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

What does that mean?
Do we only serve each other in church and then maybe lord it over people in work or a political party? How society function if we didn’t have leaders or managers?
How can a church not allow the ordination of women priests as it’s forbidden and yet have a Pope, Cardinals, Bishops?

‘Power’ is a word that keeps on cropping up. Even Lord of Rings has that a central theme, Frodo seeking to destroy the ring that would give Sauron power over Middle Earth. Thinking about church we often have a default setting to seeking the ‘movers and shakers’. If the Roman Catholics have got Pope Francis we might have a Tim Keller or Rob Bell. And if we have speakers for a conference they will be from a big church that is going somewhere. Movers and shakers.

“But you …it must not be the same among you.” In other words, do not be so concerned about fighting kings. Let them be. Set up a marginal society that will not be interested in such things, in which there will be no power, authority or hierarchy. Do not do things as they are usually done in society, which you cannot change. Create another society on another foundation.
     We might condemn this attitude, talking of depoliticization. As we shall see, this was in fact the global attitude of Jesus. But we must take note that this is not desocialization. Jesus is not advising us to leave society and go into the desert. His counsel is that we should stay in society and set up in it communities which obey other rules and laws’

The Hidden Persuaders‘ by Vance Packard was first published in 1957, which means it is nearly 60yrs old.
I was just flicking through it and came across this passage.
It made me think how TV ads for new toys and gadgets will be on children’s TV channels and junk mail will be coming through our doors encouraging housewives (and househusbands) to fill kitchen cupboards with biscuits and bottles of wine.

“What is the morality of the practice of encouraging housewives to be non-rational and impulsive in buying family food?
What is the morality of playing upon hidden weaknesses and frailties – such as our anxieties, aggressive feelings, dread of non-conformity, and infantile hang-overs – to sell products? Specifically, what are the ethics of businesses that shape campaigns designed to thrive on these weaknesses they have diagnosed?
What is the morality of manipulating small children even before they reach the age where they are legally responsible for their actions?
What is the morality of treating voters like customers, and child customers seeking father images at that?
What is the morality of exploiting our deepest sensitivities and yearnings for commercial purposes?
What is the morality of appealing for our charity by playing upon our secret desires for self-enhancement?
What is the morality of developing in the public an attitude of wastefulness toward national resources by encouraging the ‘psychological obsolescence’ of products already in use?
What is the morality of subordinating truth to cheerfulness in keeping the citizen posted on the state of his nation?”

we plough the fields and scatter

I have to admit to getting a bit annoyed when churches think that having a Harvest Thanksgiving Service is something from a bygone era that has no relevance to people today. (Not that I’ve heard of any church doing this, it’s maybe just in my imagination).

It especially irritates me when urban churches think like that because it seems to show a lack of awareness, thankfulness  or insight of where the food they had today in the town or city came from.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a bustling town without a cow in sight.  Somewhere on planet earth your food was planted. More than that, your future meal is either growing or being stored in a tiny seed for future growth for us to eat..
We are all dependent on the marvels of the soil and humus which if you are of a Christian persuasion God created just as much as he created you or me. Which has implications.

We usually sing the old harvest favourite

‘We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand’

Yet that isn’t quite true. I can see this from growing the few things that I got the time to plant this summer.

The soil here was tired, rocky and dry from bushes and shrubs that had grown the last 20yrs. So I had to take the bushes out, make a small bed and throw in some well rotted compost to try and improve the soil so that the lettuce and leeks would grow more healthily. In fact, one of the neighbourhood cats did his business beside a few leeks and they are noticeably larger than the other leeks.
Humans have to be custodians of the soil and sometimes add fertilizers, manure and other things if they want to keep on harvesting food from the land year after year. In one sense the soil is fed by humans as well. That is why gardeners keep compost heaps or try to get their hands on some well rotted manure.

Or during the heat wave the ground got scorched  dry and my lettuce started to bolt so I had to water the soil by going to the tap with my watering can and adding lots of water. Humans might have to irrigate and water their crop and plants, especially in areas of low rainfall.

So what I think about those lines in the hymn is that   they underplay the role that humans (all humans?) have in looking after creation in that we have a bigger role in the harvesting of our food than those lines suggest. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t all ultimately come from God, just that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to look after it.

I wonder if those line also have filtered down to how we understand how the climate works? It seems to be the attitude with a lot of Christians that we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist about climate change because God is in charge of the weather patterns and sends the weather, not us.
Which might be be a problem as we think that what we do can’t effect what is going to happen with the weather patterns so we might as well do what we want.

I find the whole thing about climate change and scientists puzzling.
Obviously years ago scientists discovered that smoking or passive smoking is bad for your health, so people and the Government took that on board and outlawed smoking in public places etc. Yet not many people seem to go around being skeptical about what the scientists say there but when it comes to climate change nobody seems to want to trust the scientists.
When it comes to climate change nobody wants to take it seriously. So it is going to happen and that means that our harvests are going to become more unpredictable. For example f there are heatwaves in places that used to be reliable places to grow wheat then there is going to be less bread. If there is more wet weather in areas that used to have reliable rainfall then harvesting crops is going to be more expensive. And all that is going to happen as the population of planet earth continues to grow.

So I think that we have extra reason to be thankful for every harvest we have as well as repenting of not treating the world around us of respect.
It’s like that old chestnut that I used to get about having wear a suit to church as ‘If you wouldn’t wear jeans to meet the Queen, how much more important is it to wear respectful clothes in meeting with God?’

If you wouldn’t trash Buckingham Palace or wreck a van Gogh painting in an art gallery why would we treat the world God created with so little respect?


ImageWe’ve just received a letter from Galway City Council saying that they are discontinuing their bin collection service. Our bins will shortly be collected  by a private company instead. This has made me unhappy.

When we first moved to Galway  I knew that a number of different private bin companies in the area collected rubbish and these bin services may well be slightly cheaper  and come more frequently  etc. However I still preferred the idea of the council doing  it as it seemed to me to be more of a community effort. In my eyes a private bin company would exist mainly for profit and making money (while providing an essential service)

I was thinking about this yesterday at my compost bin.
By composting my vegetable waste and reducing the weight of my brown bin over the year it means that I will be charged less by the bin company as the bin will have to be collected less often.
If everyone in the area started doing this and the number of brown bins being collected reduced it would be bad for a business that makes profit by collecting your rubbish.
I don’t think that a private bin company has any reason to encourage people to stop putting waste and rubbish out. In fact, it is better for business if people put out more rubbish. More rubbish bins means more money for the company.

I realize that councils are far from perfect either but I think that there is more chance of householders/businesses in Galway being encouraged to reduce the amount of waste they put out for collection if the council is having to deal with it.  There is a section on their website for example that tells us

‘Waste prevention should always be the first step in waste management. Rather than thinking ‘what bin should I put this item in?’, think ‘did I really need this item in the first place?’.

By not generating waste, we can eliminate the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste. We can also avoid having to pay for these services. So next time you shop, think about the waste that you are not only paying for once, but twice as you pay for its disposal later.’

If you are a private bin company then ‘eliminating the need to handle, transport, treat and dispose of waste‘ is the last thing you’d want to do!

raspberries and rare earth metals

Hidden away among the undergrowth of the manse/house/home  I found a few raspberry canes.
So the past few weeks I’ve been picking them, raspberry by raspberry, setting them on a tray in the freezer and bagging them to see what weight of fruit I can harvest from this piece of land in the garden. (can we reach 500g?)

These canes have been completely neglected and in my excitement I’ve probably been over eager to pick them. They could maybe have been left a few more days to plump up a little. But I was excited to get them picked.

The thing that I am trying to get into my head and visualize is the amount of land that is needed to grow x amount of raspberries. An area of land about 0.5 m sq has so far yield about enough berries to make a pudding. How much land is needed to grow all the pots of raspberry jam that are going mouldy in cupboards all over Ireland?

This is something that is nearly impossible for us to do being disconnected from the land as we are, especially those of us who live in cities or towns. To picture a piece of land somewhere in the world where our raspberries are grown might take a bit of effort.
The same for our wheat, our rice, our potatoes. When we lift a bag in Dunnes Stores we have little reason to think about where the beans for our baked beans are grown or where the sugar for our Coca Cola was grown. But they have been grown and harvested somewhere,in some other community and piece of land.
The metals in that enamel milk jug where dug up somewhere. The rare earth materials in our electronic gadgets came from somewhere.

Thinking about rare metals seems to be something that we need not concern ourselves with and it wasn’t really something I had considered that much until this morning after church when I got chatting to a gentleman from Malaysia who starting talking about a rare earth refining plant in his home town. Our demand for electronics will have consequences for the area he is from.  For him the big concern wasn’t so much the radiation from the processing plant  but the acidification of water from the refining process.  What will people do when trees start dying from the change in acidity? How will the water be neutralized when it costs so much?

He had also mentioned that when you fly into Malaysia you now see unending palm tree plantations to supply the world with palm oil. To plant the palm trees that go into cosmetics and other consumer products the native forests had to be cleared and burnt.  That bar of soap in the bathroom might have come from his neck of the woods and if not it came from someone else part of the world. How many neglected, unused bars of soap are sitting in bathrooms around the UK?

I think talking to this gentleman from this particular part of the world reminded me that buying a new smart phone or coconut milk in Poundland has consequences for real people, not abstract, ghost-like phantoms who’ll just be alright.